In the News, Mental Health ,

Are you processing or are you ruminating?

I am a self-described over-thinker.  From a young age, my family often complained that I over analyzed everything.  While this has served me well in many pursuits, I recently read that it may not be so great for my health.

According to a recent article by U.S. News and World Report, rumination over stressful or negative events may lead to prolonged psychological recovery time along with increased blood pressure and heart rate (1).  While I’m still an advocate for processing difficult situations, rumination is different.  Rumination typically leads to repeatedly and cyclically thinking about the same situation while creating moods that spiral downward (1).   People often end up ruminating without realizing it; they think they’re attempting to problem-solve instead (1).  I know this speaks to the analytical “Ms. Fix-it” in me.

According to the article, people can identify if they’re in rumination mode by asking themselves if their thoughts are unproductive, creating feelings of being overwhelmed, or causing distractions from their surroundings (1).  Suggestions to get past this include distraction by taking a walk or enjoying a hobby (1).

Now, all of this is said with a giant caveat-  if you feel like you need mental health help, get it.  Rumination often happens when people are dealing with something traumatic in their lives.  I am by no means telling you to shove your feelings down and avoid them.  What I am encouraging you to do is stop and ask yourself if you’re having the same negative thoughts over and over again.  If you feel like it’s something minor, you may want to stop and distract yourself to break the cycle.  If it’s something that’s a big deal to you, then you may need to enlist the help of a mental health professional.

Thinking about situations is helpful, but if three days have passed, and you’re still thinking about how the coffee-shop barista spelled your name wrong, you may be ruminating and hurting your health in the process.



  1. Colino, Stacey. The Hazards of Rumination for Your Mental and Physical Health. U. S. News and World Report. [Online] March 14, 2018.


  • Casey

    Very relevant article, Crystal. I first heard about rumination in undergrad as a psychology major. In a social psychology course, I learned that rumination is particularly concerning for women who often engage in ruminating conversations with others. This places them at a higher risk of depression. Below is an article that explains some gender difference in rumination. I’m a self-proclaimed ruminator as well and the questions the article posed are very helpful for becoming more self-aware: are your thoughts “unproductive, creating feelings of being overwhelmed, or causing distractions from [your] surroundings”.

  • Laurie Hursting

    I get in trouble with this when it comes to venting. Venting is often helpful to an extent but then I find that it can become non-productive and lead to ruminating

  • Josh Boegner

    Great article, I appreciate the way that you weaved your own personal narrative throughout. I think that many people often struggle with rumination and that it is an important distinction to make between ruminating and processing.